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That the Spirit of God is the primary and only infallible, and the Scriptures but a subordinate or secondary, guide.
This proposition the Quakers usually make out in the following manner:
It is, in the first place, admitted by all Christians, that the Scriptures were given by inspiration; or, that those who originally wrote or delivered the several parts of them gave them forth by means of that Spirit, which was given to them by God. Now in the same manner as streams or rivulets of water are subordinate to the fountains which produce them, so these streams or rivulets of light must be subordinate to the Great Light from whence they originally sprung “We cannot,” says Barclay, “call the Scriptures the principal fountain of all truth and knowledge, nor yet the first adequate rule of faith and manners, because the principal fountain of truth must be the Truth itself; that is, that whose certainty and authority depend not upon another.'
The Scriptures are subordinate or secondary, again, in other points of view. First, because, though they are placed before us, we can only know or understand them by
the testimony of the Spirit. Secondly, because there is no virtue or power in them of themselves, but in the Spirit from whence they came.
They are, again, but a secondary guide; “ because that,” says Barclay, “ cannot be the only and principal guide, which doth not universally reach every individual that needeth it." But the Scriptures do not reach deaf persons, nor children, nor idiots, nor an immense number of people, more than half the globe, who never yet saw or heard of them. These, therefore, if they are to be saved like others, must have a different or a more universal rule to guide them, or be taught from another source.
They are only a secondary guide, again, for another reason. It is an acknowledged axiom among Christians, that the Spirit of God is a perfect Spirit, and that it can never
But the Scriptures are neither perfect of themselves as a collection, nor are they perfect in their verbal parts. Many of them have been lost.
Concerning those which have survived there have been great disputes. Certain parts of these, which one Christian council received in the early times
of the church, were rejected as not canonical by another. Add to this, that none of the originals are extant. And of the copies, some have suffered by transcription, others by translation, and others by wilful mutilation to support
human notions of religion; so that there are various readings of the same passage, and various views of the same thing. “Now, what,” says Barclay, “would become of Christians, if they had not received that Spirit, and those spiritual senses, by which they know how to discover the true from the false? It is the privilege of Christ's sheep, indeed, that they hear his voice, and refuse that of the stranger; which privilege being taken away, we are left a prey to all manner of wolves.” The Scriptures, therefore, in consequence of the state in which they have come down to us, can: not, the Quakers say, be considered to be a guide as entirely perfect as the internal testimony of their great Author the Spirit of God.
But though the Quakers have thought it right, in submitting their religious creed to the world on this subject, to be so guarded in the wording of it as to make the distinction
described, they are far from undervaluing the Scriptures on that account. They believe, on the other hand, whatever mutilations they may have suffered, they contain sufficient to guide men in belief and practice; and that all internal emotions which are contrary to the declaration of these are wholly inadmissible.
“ Moreover," says Barclay, “ because the Scriptures are commonly acknowledged by all to have been written by the dictates of the Holy Spirit, and that the
be supposed by the injury of time to have slipt in, are not such but that there is a sufficiently clear testimony left to all the essentials of the Christian faith, we do look upon them as the only fit outward judge of controversies among Christians, and that whatsoever doctrine is contrary to their testimony may therefore justly be rejected as false.
The Quakers believe also, that as God gave a portion of his Spirit to man to assist him inwardly, so he gave the Holy Scripkures to assist him outwardly, in his spiritual concerns.
Hence the latter, coming by inspiration, are the most precious of all the books that ever were written, and the best outward guide: and hence the things contained in them ought to be read, and, as far as possible, fulfilled.
They believe, with the apostle Paul, that the Scriptures are highly useful ; so that “ through patience and comfort of them they may have hope ; and also that they are profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” That in the same manner as land highly prepared and dressed by the husbandman becomes fit for the reception and for the promotion of the growth of the seed that is to be placed in it, so the Scriptures turn the attention of man towards God, and by means of the exhortations, reproofs, promises, and threatenings, contained in them, prepare the mind for the reception and growth of the seed of the Holy Spirit.
They believe, again, that the same Scriptures show more of the particulars of God's will with respect to man, and of the scheme of the Gospel-dispensation, than nary portion of his Spirit, as usually giveni to man, would have enabled him to discover. They discover thať the “*
* Rom. vi. 23.